(1)"The rock beds in the vicinity of a salt dome are highly fractured and permeable due to stress and deformation which occur as the salt dome thrusted upwards." (Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)
We also have faults* to deal with in this scenario of which there are both deep and shallow. Depending on the current vital stats of the blown out well, especially its actual depth; the number, location and severity of the breaches throughout the well system; the pressure at the wellhead; as well as the type and status of geological formations/strata it has been drilled into, these faults will become prominently configured into the future stability of the whole region. Larger faults can open up much greater opportunities for the hydrocarbons to find their way to the seafloor via cracks and crevices, craters and chasms. In fact the numerous leaks and seeps throughout the seafloor surface, which are quite apparent from various ROV live-feeds, give testimony to sub-seafloor geological formations in great turmoil and undergoing unprecedented flux.
*"Once the oil gets into the shallow faulted zones, we have an uncontrollable situation. The place where most of the oil and gas is coming out is at the foot hills of the continental shelf as shown in figure 134-1 in the article "BP continues to dazzle us with their unlimited magic". The discovery by WHOI of the 22 mile long river of oil originated from these leaks. So the leaks will be mainly along the faults where I have marked (shallow) in "What is going on at West Sirius" and deep strike-slip faults (red line) on fig 134-1." (Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)
Just how bad is this situation? There are actually three different ongoing disasters - each more grave and challenging than the previous one - which must be considered when assessing the awesome destruction to the GOM by the Oil & Gas Industry.
I. A single gushing well at 70 to 100,000 barrels per day of hydrocarbon effluent for 87 days into the GOM at the Macondo Prospect along with two smaller rogue wells
II. Numerous leaks and seeps within five to ten square miles of the Macondo well with an aggregate outflow of an unknown amount of hydrocarbon effluent per day into the GOM
III. Countless gushers and spills, leaks and seeps, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling has been conducted for many decades, with an aggregate outflow that can not even be estimated, but is well in excess of any guesstimate which would ensure the slow and steady demise of the GOM.
It is the last scenario which we all face and to which there is no easy or obvious solution. The truth be told, there currently does not exist the technology or machinery or equipment to repair the damage that has been wrought by the process of deep undersea drilling, especially when it is performed in the wrong place. Therefore, wherever the oil and gas find points of entry into the GOM through the seafloor, these leaks and seeps will only continue to get worse. Here's why:
Methane gas mixed with saltwater and mud makes for a very potent corrosive agent. Under high pressure it will find every point of egress through the rock and sediment formations all the way up to the seafloor where it will find any point of exit that is available. The longer and more forcefully that it flows throughout the fractured area, which is dependent on the volume, temperature and pressure at the source of the hydrocarbons, the more its corrosive effects will widen, broaden and enlarge the channels, cracks and crevices throughout the sub-seafloor geology, thereby creating a predicament that no science, technology or equipment can remedy.
Dire realities of the methane hydrate predicament
The Macondo Prospect in the GOM is just one of many throughout the oceans of the world where the seafloor has beds of methane hydrate locked in place by very high pressure and low temperatures. Likewise, there are myriad repositories and large "reservoirs" of methane clathrates in the sub-seafloor strata, and especially within the more superficial geological formations, which are being greatly impacted by all oil and gas drilling and extraction activities. It does not take much imagination to understand how the upsurging hydrocarbons (very hot oil and gas) are quickly converting the frozen hydrates to gas, thereby causing innumerable "micro-displacements", the cumulative effect of which will translate to larger "macro-displacements" of rock, sediment and other geological formations.
When you factor in this constant vaporization of methane hydrates/clathrates both sub-seafloor as well as those scattered around the seafloor surface to the existing scenario, this devolving situation becomes that much more difficult to effectively remedy. With the resulting shifts and resettling and reconfiguration of the entire seafloor terrain and underlying strata occurring in the wake of these dynamics, we are left with a situation that is not going to get better through the use of even more invasive technology and intrusive machinery.
Question: How many times can you grout a seafloor crack that was caused by an underlying superficial fault after drilling into an old mud volcano?
Answer: "In the attempt to seal the oil from oozing through the faults, BP resorted to high pressure grouting. Basically it is like cementing the cracks in the rock by injecting grout (cement mixture) at high pressure. The way they do this is by drilling an injection hole into the shallow rocks and pumping in the grout. The grout in "slurry" state will permeate into the cracks, cure and seal up the cracks. However it is not working because of the presence of gas and oil. It is like super-glue. You need to clean the surfaces before you apply the glue; otherwise it won't stick and will come off eventually after a few days or weeks.
That is why we can see a few blown out craters - shown in my article - Is the last rite for the Macondo Well for real?" (Per BK Lim, Geohazards Specialist)
Likewise, how do you fill a newly emerging gash in the seafloor which is caused by a deep fault due to low level seismic activity, or worse, a full blown earthquake?!